Recycle Right: CFLs Contain Mercury

March 25, 2021
  |   2 Comments

The Recycle Right—CFLs Contain Mercury campaign is focused on educating the public about how and why to recycle the lightbulbs that contain mercury.

CFLs use one-third of the electricity, and last up to 10 times longer, than incandescent light bulbs. CFLs are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and reduce electricity bills—while lessening carbon footprints—but they should not be thrown into the trash.

Nationwide, more than 670 million mercury-containing bulbs are improperly discarded each year. In Montgomery County, CFLs that are thrown into the trash are often mixed with other waste and incinerated. The disposal method can lead to a release of mercury into the environment through breakage and leakage, and ultimately, contaminate the environment and food chain.

CFLs Contain Mercury

Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs or CFLs are a great way to reduce your electricity bill while lessening your carbon footprint. However, these types of bulbs contain a small amount of mercury and should be handled carefully and disposed of properly at all times.

Please DO NOT throw them in the trash. Nationwide, over 670 million mercury-containing bulbs are discarded improperly each year. In Montgomery County most of these bulbs are ultimately land filled or incinerated. These disposal methods can lead to a release of mercury into the environment through breakage and leakage and ultimately contaminate the food chain.

Download and share the English/Spanish flyer here: CFL_Poster

Where to RECYCLE/DISPOSE CFL bulbs

Montgomery County accepts CFLs, tubes, and ballasts from your home at no additional charge at our Household Hazardous Waste dropoff at the Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station.

Live in a municipality? Contact your local municipal office for additional information regarding CFLs recycling opportunities in your community.

Montgomery County has compiled this listing through various sources and does not present it as a complete directory of all organizations or companies, nor offer it as an endorsement of any of the organizations.

  • Hours of acceptance: vary by location
  • Cost: no charge
  • Quantity limits
    • Household Hazardous Waste Collection: no quantity limit
    • Community drop-off locations at retail stores: small quantities only

 See Google Map of drop-off locations

Where to SWAP CFL bulbs

Montgomery Energy Connection provides light bulb exchanges throughout the County. There will be some during the Spring/Summer months so check the CALENDAR for events.

The City of Gaithersburg will be hosting Free, Contactless Shredding Events this year where visitors will be able to drop off light bulbs in a designated bin. Please do not mix lightbulbs in with other E-waste as broken glass would be hazardous for handlers.

What to do if a CFL bulb breaks? 

CFLs and tubes contain a small amount of mercury. These instructions from the US EPA describe clean-up and disposal guidelines for broken fluorescent light bulbs.

Double-bag the broken CFL or tube in a re-sealable plastic bag and place in your household trash. Do not put CFLs or tubes into your recycling bin.

Are you a business?

If you have CFLs, tubes, or ballasts from your business, take them to the Hazardous Waste drop-off area at our Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station.

  • Cost: $1.17 per bulb or 4-foot tube; $2.34 per 8-foot tube
  • No quantity limit

The Story of CFLs



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